Callum Hendry is completing his internship with Angus MacDonald MSP. He has written a blog about what it has been like to work at the Scottish Parliament, included the highlights and detailed the flexibility that’s made it a great place to work!
Before starting the internship, I had been unemployed for 2 years. Since graduating from University in 2006 I spent 3 years working for various organisations then had spent 7 years running a charity. Through my life I had gained a lot in the way of work experience yet had little experience of being unemployed! It was perhaps due to this that I naively thought it would take two weeks to find the next job rather than two years. No one makes plans to be unemployed for two years, and believe me I was trying to find work. I had this feeling that for my wellbeing it would be best to remain patient and to wait for a job to come along that I would be passionate about. I was also feeling increasingly fragile as the period of unemployment went from two weeks to two months then to two years; I really hoped that my next employer would be understanding of this and support me when the job came along. When I saw the We Can Work internship advertised I was therefore very excited – this looked like the ideal challenge which would in turn deliver invaluable experience, which also came with the sort of support structure that would really help me readapt to being in full employment. Just as I had been thinking I may have to compromise and accept a job which I wasn’t as enthusiastic about, along came what I could only describe as the dream post!
The application process and particularly the interview were made relatively stress-free by Inclusion Scotland’s support and feedback before, during and after the process. I didn’t quite get there first time, however this felt less like failure and more like a learning curve. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to be offered an internship at the Scottish Parliament at the second attempt and I truly feel like I haven’t looked back.
Working in the Scottish Parliament building itself can be a thrill – so much activity and buzz taking place as the news of the day unfurls itself right before your eyes. With this comes so many opportunities to learn, people to meet, material to read. Whether through research, watching debates in the chamber, attending events or even just enjoying lunch at the canteen one feels that they are always learning, always growing. Personally, I relished some of the more practical aspects of working at the Parliament – it was easy to cycle to work and store your cycling gear there, they have a gym which is free to use, and there was once again a structure to my day which I had badly missed.
Away from the glamour of the Scottish political waterfront at the Parliament is where some of the most important work takes place – the constituency office. I look forward equally to my days at the constituency office through in Grangemouth where the team are so welcoming, accommodating my presence in the same cheerful and positive manner as they support the constituents on a daily basis. The constituency office is busy in a different way – the phone is constantly ringing and it always feels busy, although perhaps being in a less public place means that it feels ‘quieter’ (I had to use parenthesis there as when anyone mentions the ‘q’ word in the office loosely it immediately sparks some sort of crisis and I don’t want to be guilty of that today!)
I have been included in events organised by the staff, both as spectator and staff support. I have particularly enjoyed attending events on behalf of the MSP when he has been unable to attend, as sometimes this involves travel and it always involves meeting new people. I enjoy writing up a report on the event and also suggesting ideas of how the MSP and team could perhaps follow-up. The team are always keen to discuss any new ideas and it does genuinely feel like you are contributing to the team, rather than being there as a passenger.
As fun as the special events are, it has been vital for me to be as structured as possible. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the research I want, attend every event, make every new contact. I had also become even worse at basic things like keeping focused on time after my long absence from employment. It is good having some flexibility, but there comes a point when it only adds to feelings of anxiety and/or worrying about whether you are using your time in the best way. There is certainly a lot to gain from spending time planning ahead and then keeping to that plan – it helps you to add to the ‘done’ part of the to-do list rather than constantly adding to it! I look forward to reviewing the long list of completed tasks when I leave the internship and think “wow – I did really achieve all of that!”
I have roughly 8 weeks of the internship left so have already forged ahead with plans for my next step, hopefully into a permanent post. My chances of achieving that have been advanced ten-fold through the current reference I will have, the experience I have gained and the support available. If I can successfully find a permanent post doing what I am doing on my internship I will be delighted – thankfully, it looks like there are plenty opportunities available to do just that. The fact that my intern predecessors have been so successful in their endeavours previously provides me with real hope that I can do the same and the motivation to follow in their footsteps.
I can’t thank the office team or Inclusion Scotland enough for their supporting me up to this point. The internship has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life so far, and all points towards it being but the first step on a new journey.